LOS ANGELES — Winds gusting up to 140 miles per hour (160 kph) triggered power outages, felled trees and caused traffic chaos Thursday in California and blasted several neighboring states, meteorologists said.
The powerful gales — expected to continue Friday — were the “strongest easterly wind event in the past several years,” said the National Weather Service, forecasting “widespread” damage.
More than 300,000 Californians were left without power, Los Angeles international airport was briefly closed Wednesday evening and there was traffic gridlock as trees and debris blocked roads and traffic lights were out.
Winter storm, high wind or “red flag” wildfire risk warnings were in place in the neighboring states of Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.
“Strong and potentially damaging easterly winds are impacting the southwestern US and are expected to continue through at least Friday,” the NWS said in an online warning.
“Wind gusts in excess of 140 mph have been recorded along the Sierra Crest. Santa Ana wind gusts as high as 80 mph are anticipated in southern California today, including higher-elevation areas near Los Angeles.
“This is forecast to be the strongest easterly wind event in the past several years,” it said.
Los Angeles was particularly hard hit by the Santa Ana winds, a meteorological phenomenon which brings dry winds down from the high mountains east of the coastal areas.
More than 210,000 customers of Southern California Edison were without power, while the city Department of Water and Power said nearly 90,000 of its 1.4 million customers were without electricity.
City Hall in downtown Los Angeles — the center of attention in recent days as police cleared out a two-month old anti-Wall Street protest camp — was also without power for some time, although it was later restored.
Photo credit: Thomas Pintaric